Dated back to roughly 1000 BM (Before Moses), a fresh, high protein fruit was discovered in the Middle East, called the fig (“Ancient Figs of the Holy Land”). Figs can be traced back to and are still currently found in the countries of Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Interestingly enough, there are male, caprifigs, and female, sycnonia, fig trees and do not produce the same fruit as one another. Male fig trees cannot be eaten due to the high amounts of pollen stored inside, leaving only the female trees to be the figs that people can enjoy. These female trees rely on the pollination of wasps, specifically referred to as “fig wasps” (“The Queen of the Trees”), to hatch inside of them and leave to pollinate more trees. Females run the production of this aspect of agriculture.
The fig is considered to be a sacred food to multiple religions, including certain branches of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Buddhist view the fig as a symbol of spiritual growth (“Real Food Right Now and How to Cook it: Figs”), while in Christianity it is not viewed as an enlightening fruit by all. In the story of Adam and eve, the fig is the first tree mentioned, leaving some scholars to believe that the forbidden fruit was not an apple, but rather a fig (“Fig Trees of the Holy Land”). While it is not a convincing idea to all, the tree described has similar characteristics to one of a fig, arguably more so than an apple tree. In Islam, the fig is considered to be one of the sacred trees mentioned in the Quran.
In ancient times, lack of food resources is where figs became extremely important. For long journeys across the desert, people would dry the figs and wear them as necklaces as a source of nutrients. By drying the figs, they are able to not only last longer, but also provide a different way of enjoying this fruit. It was a convenient way to eat while trekking, but is currently not a common grab-and-go food option.
Currently, over 750 varieties of figs can now be found around the world, all tracing back to the Middle East, (Pappagallo, 2013). There are the Lebanese red figs, the Persian white found in Iran, and the Bydia and Sumaki which are both originally from Syria, Besides eating them right off of the tree or drying them out, figs are commonly baked in cookies. We can all thank the Middle East for helping create one of our popular childhood snacks, the Fig Newton. Not always considered the most delectable cookie, but it was sure the first of its kind to reach our shelves.